Spa Koh Chang - a good place to start Iyengar yog
Before coming to the Spa Koh Chang I have never heard about the Iyengar Yoga. That by itself does not mean much - I am not known for my physical fitness, however I have watched Ashtanga, have done a bit of Bikhram (liked it) and joined a class or two when opportunity came along. The Spa Koh Chang employs a mature German teacher, Kristine, who works there about 6 months of the year, until she must go and renew her visa. When she is away, her friend, who is also an experienced teacher, takes over.
What is Iyenga? It was founded by B. K. Iyengar b 1918, but still takes your breath away when you see him on a YouTube video. People who have had lessons with him, say that he walks like an old man but when he starts his asanas - the body revives. Iyengar is a form of Hathha Yoga but it "constructs" your body with much greater precision and is famous for its attention to detail. Iyengar pioneered the use of props - cushions, sand bags, blocks and belts in order to make you experience correct positions (asanas) and align you body as early as possible, rather than waiting when you are years into practice
Iyenga actively corrects pupils. If in many classes you join and "do what they do", here the teacher goes through 5-6 postures in 1.5 hours. Poor pupils struggle to control their bodies: "Put your feet together in 12 noon position, make sure you think of them as squares with four tyres in each corner, where equal pressure is applied to each corner of the foot, pull your knees up, lift the front muscle of your thighs, stomach in, tilt your pubic bone and squeeze your buttocks (here most of us drop the knees and the thighs)
And so goes on through the body, muscle by muscle, bone by bone and oh miracle of miracles, it starts feeling right. After a couple of lessons the body seeks to enter that "correct" state again. Ludmila, a yoga teacher from Ukraine, with a university degree in physical education and her own yoga studio in Kiev, said that the lessons with us, 7 beginners, were very useful to her. She teaches up-and-go girls in Kiev, who want to do an equivalent of a yoga boot camp. Everybody found focused single movements very difficult.
It takes at least two years to get the Iyengar Certificate, and years more to get to advanced level. Kristine corrected us tirelessly and everybody welcomed it, except a German middle aged stewardess who clearly practiced some yoga in Germany (she has a good body). We could all see that she was not doing the postures correctly, but she was so mad with Kristine that she wrote a complaint (!!! - imagine going on hols and writing a complaint to the management that your yoga was corrected?!).
Kristine is not particularly slim and is not that young
She has seen life and her health was not good at some point. She understands what mortals feel - she has been there. She also delivered another miracle - after coming back from the Spa, I continued doing yoga at home. Another unusual development was the musical mediation. I am hopeless at mediatation, tried it many times in my life but could never have more than a few seconds of a peaceful mind. I understand techniques and implications of cloud-like thoughts you need to let in and let out of your mind. Still no go. First Kristine removed one of the big problems - she let those who want lie down on a mat. Those who have various body problems could use props to hold their back and legs. So the excruciating pain of sitting still for 25 minutes whilst flies sit on your nose and your hip hurts disappeared. Then the beautiful Indian chants take your mind higher and higher.
Kristine lives on Long Beach. Most people never make it there since the last few km of the road are abysmal. If you do venture driving yourself make sure you have a four wheel drive. The final destination is well worth the trip - a little paradise lagoon at the end of the world. There are a few huts that you can get for $10 a night. They are ok, you have to share bathrooms and you have electricity between 6pm and some time in the morning. Kristine says that the breeze, the gentle waves and starry skies are better than anywhere.
If you want to do yoga with Kristine, don't come until March 2010 - she is away in India refining her practice.